Zombie caterpillars controlled by voodoo wasps
Which is Voodoo wasps ?
Voodoo wasps is an insect that belongs to family braconidae. Its order is hymenoptera. This insect is one of the powerful insect in the insect world. Because these wasps having a fascinating ability to protect its cocoon by using a bodyguard. So can you believe insect having such an ability ?
- Voodoo wasp is a kind of of a wasp.
- They have a habit of zomifying their prey.
- Found in Central and North America and New Zealand.
- Length – 2 to 3 cm
- Genus of Endoparasitoid
- Mouth parts – Chewing and Lapping
- Abdomen and thorax separated narrowly
Creating a Zombie Caterpillar
1. Wasps lay eggs inside the caterpillar.
Voodoo wasps lay about 80 eggs in young geometrid caterpillars. Each is the size of a grain of rice. But together they account for over a third of the caterpillars weight.
After the wasp impregnates a caterpillar with eggs, so the behavior of the host caterpillar beings to radically change. First, the caterpillar stops moving. Then, after the eggs hatched the larvae inside the caterpillar survive by feeding on the bodily fluids of it.
2. Larvae coming out through the skin of the Caterpillar
Larvae are fully matured within days. Suddenly they begins to strive into action. Therefore they must break out to complete the next stage of their life cycle.
The caterpillars thick skin showed be a solid barrier to the parasitic wasp larvae. But as their bodies have grown they have developed tiny saw like teeth. These jagged jaws are for one job only which cutting their way out.
Stroke by stroke the larvae slice through the tough layers of the skin. At the same time, they release chemicals that paralyze the caterpillar. But the fascinating thing is the caterpillar still alive even after larvae coming out.
3. The Zombie Bodyguard.
At last, larvae enter a new phase of development. They swiftly spin silken cocoons. These will provide the perfect environment for their final transformation. But ironically, one of the greatest dangers the larvae will face is being themselves impregnated by other species of parasitic wasps. Incredibly the wounded caterpillar helps them out.
The caterpillar stands as arched over the cocoon without moving away. Usually a caterpillar would spin a Silken blanket to make it own cocoon. But the caterpillar spins as blanket on top of the wasp cocoon giving them are extra layer of protection. The caterpillar act as the cocoon’s bodyguard. By protecting from various predators. So the caterpillar now effectively a zombie like bodyguard.
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There are so many researches has been conducted on these insects to find out what is the reason behind protecting of cocoon by voodoo wasps. But scientist don’t know why the infected caterpillars protect the cocoon. However, they did find out that this incredible ability to voodoo wasps is crucial for their survival.